What do you think when you look at her?

“What do you think when you look at me? A woman of faith? (…) Or oppressed. Brainwashed. A terrorist. (…) If some of your assumptions were negative I don’t even blame you. That’s just how the media has been portraying people who look like me.“

This is how Dalia Mogahed starts her TEDTalk, in which she introduces herself as a “mother, coffee lover, introvert and practicing spiritual muslim“. Dalia Mogahed, Director of Research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding and CEO of Mogahed Consulting, “wasn’t born this way”. Her religious belief was just as much a choice as wearing the hijab, having her, so-called, religious “come-out” at the age of 17.

The answer she got from her terrified feminist friends was: Why are you oppressing yourself?


It is strange to think of Dalia Mogahed, who “like all good Egyptians started a career as an engineer” as an oppressed or even radicalized woman just because of her looks. Still, accusations like these are part of everyday life of millions of other Muslims who constantly have to explain themselves.

What for?

Ever since all the current terrorist attacks committed by the IS in the name of Islam, the broader public started more and more to perceive Muslims as a problem, “a tumor in the body of America”. Dalia Mogahed herself remembers 9/11 and the effect this act of terror had on her life:

“This day somebody else’s action had turned me from a citizen to a suspect. (…) For the first time in my life I was afraid for anyone to know I was a Muslim.“

Radicalization and its real cause

She further points out that prevention of radicalization has nothing to do with treating Muslims like a tumor to be eliminated or mosques being shut down. After all, people do not get radicalized at mosques, rather after being cut down from their community, in which they failed to find the answers they were looking for. This is what happens before young people get involved in a radicalization process, during which they get brainwashed into believing that they, the terrorists, are the real muslims. 

“So to prevent radicalization we have to keep people going to the mosque.”

Terror in the name of Islam

But how can we not think of Islam as a violent religion if a group like IS bases its brutality on their holy book? 

“I get it that people are angry at the terrorists, guess what! So was I. (…) But we would be giving in to their narrative if we cast them as representatives of a faith of 1.6 billion people.“

After all, IS “has as much to do with Islam as the Ku-Klux-Klan has to do with Christianity.”


Interested in hearing more?

That was just a short insight into a remarkable TEDTalk:

Photo Credit: Marija Barisic 

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About Marija Barisic

Marija studies German and History at the University of Vienna and loves reading and writing about psychological and spiritual theories of human mind. She likes late-night-talks with open-minded people and getting to know different point of views.

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